How was your reading experience this week? This section was really intense, and it was hard for me to read. I had to take a few breaks, just to recover from all the horrible things happening to Lina and her family.
On top of the harsh weather, Lina and her family had to deal with the mean Altaian woman. In chapter 31, Lina describes how her mom had to pay the Altaian woman for one potato for the three of them to share. Then, she had to pay for the privilege of boiling the potato. Didn't it seem almost too much for them to have to deal with this woman on top of everything else they had to deal with?
At the beginning of this section, Lina's mother refuses to help the Russians after they ask her to work as a translator and spy. Lina initially looks down on Andrius and his mother since they seem to be collaborators. Did you ever think that Andrius and his mother were working for the Russians? I wasn't sure why they were with the Russians, but I figured that Andrius's mother hadn't gone with them willingly. What did you think when Andrius finally explained to Lina why he and his mother were around the Russians? Didn't you think they were brave for trying to use their position to help the others? After her confrontation with Andrius, Lina agrees to draw a map for the Russians. Were you surprised that she was willing to put her artistic talents to use for the enemy?
Throughout this section, the prisoners debate whether they should sign the document that said that they would pay a war tax and would agree to serving a sentence of twenty-five years of hard labor. The prisoners are, not surprisingly, hesitant to sign the document. Could you believe the ways the Russians worked to break their spirits and force them to sign the papers?
Near the end of this section, the prisoners celebrate Christmas. I was shocked that they were able to find joy during the holiday season. They all had such strength of spirit.
This section ended with Lina getting some drawings sent out of their camp. Do you think it will make a difference? Do you think anyone will see what she drew? What do you think will happen in the next section? How do you think the prisoners will be able to continue surviving?
Did you know that Ruta Sepetys got the inspiration from this book from her own family? While trying to understand her family history, Sepetys learned more about the Holocaust in Lithuania and was inspired to write a story to help others learn. If you want to read more about Sepetys' family history, the Hope and Spirit project has information about some of the letters her family sent from Siberia, as well as letters from others deported there.
Finally, to learn more about life in a gulag, the video below tells the story of Elena Juciūte, a real Lithuanian woman who was deported to a gulag in but survived to tell about her experience.
I'm sure I left out important details from this section, so feel free to leave me a comment to let me know what other parts of this section stuck out to you. And, make sure to finish the book before checking back with us next week!